Galleries : Undying Tales 2023 : UT 2023 - Japanese River Otter

Available for purchase:
8.5x11 inch print ($25.00)
Original Drawing ($200.00)

Lutra nippon

Status: Once widespread in Japan, in 2012 they were declared extinct. In the 1800s, animals were hunted for pelts as they were a very profitable export, and there was a seemingly endless supply in the myriad rivers. Even after protections were put into place, pollution and human development prevented the last lingering populations from recovering.

The Ainu say that a forgetful person is called an otter-head, and this is a reference to the fact that otters would frequently catch a fish, eat a few bites, get distracted, and then forget entirely about their meal, leaving it to waste. The spirit of an otter can also possess a person, and when that happens, memory suffers. When the fresh and half-finished repast of an otter is found, a person can consume it, but only after prayers have been said to the goddess of fire to cleanse any taint of otter spirit from the fish. When the Creator first made animals, river otter was instructed to make red clothing for foxes. But because otter was so forgetful, he made the skin white. Fox was unhappy with this color. After upbraiding otter for his lapse, the two of them went to the stream. Otter caught a salmon, mashed up roe, and painted fox a rich red color. Much happier with this new coloration, fox returned the favor by extracting a deep brown from the bark of Shikerebe-ni plant, and used it to dye otter’s coat.

Previous Image

Size: 6 x 6 inches
Medium: Ink
©2023, Stephanie Law